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The Italian police have confiscated €400m in assets from a criminal figure involved in an unnamed mafia-linked Maltese iGaming company.

The enforcement efforts, a joint operation involving multiple Italian police departments, are part of the ongoing “Operation Galaxy” charged with combating the ‘Ndrangheta mafia’s infiltration of the betting and gaming sector.

The police detailed a complex criminal enterprise involving the illicit collection of online bets based out of a registered Malta company.

However, the de-facto centre of the operation was in the ‘Ndrangheta stronghold of Reggio Calabria, said the police.

The scheme also operated on an international level, through additional registered companies with offices in Romania, Austria and Spain.

The network of shell companies reportedly enabled ‘Ndrangheta to launder its ill-gotten gains.

According to the police, the undertaking featured a pyramid structure with those in leadership positions having direct connections to ‘Ndrangheta, which was guaranteed a cut of the proceeds in return for protection work.

The police added that money earned through this was transferred abroad to exempt it from Italian taxes.

By untangling this web, the police said they uncovered the identity of the central criminal figure involved in the scheme.

In light of the evidence, the District Anti-Mafia Directorate has engaged other police forces to carry out an investigation into the figure.

Police untangle criminal network

Through a forensic investigation, the police discovered the unnamed crime boss’ assets, both directly and indirectly controlled by the individual.

The police added the total amount found was “disproportionate” compared to their declared income.   

As a result, the Prevention Measures Section of the Court of Reggio Calabria ordered the individual’s assets to be seized.

This was followed by a second order to seize all the available assets linked to the three connected iGaming companies, two Maltese trusts including their financial portfolio, as well as associated financial and other assets.

The total value of assets seized by the authorities stands at €400m. Additionally, the court has ordered surveillance of the crime boss for the next two years and six months, as well as an order to not leave their municipality.

The police said the operation demonstrated the “high attention” of the financial police and Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Mafia infiltration of Malta iGaming

Operation Galaxy was first announced in May last year, with police confiscating €3m following an initial investigation.

The seizures come just days after the publication of Malta’s latest AML risk report, in which it highlighted the potential threat of organised crime-linked entities attaining control of registered iGaming companies.

The extent of the past or current levels of mob infiltration into Maltese iGaming is unknown. However, in recent years the Italian police have uncovered multiple businesses linked to various mafia organisations.

This month, a left-wing European Parliament MEP released a report which alleged that organised crime has laundered billions of euros through the Mediterranean island since its emergence as an online gambling hub.

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